Friday, August 29, 2014

Tales from Turkey Part 5 Siege of Constantinople/Byzantium

Rebuilt section of the walls of Byzantium
Continuing on from the last post which focused on the epic Siege Panorama of the Ottoman attack on the Asian shore of Constantinople I'd like to share some shots of interesting exhibits relating to the siege and capture of the city. A bus tour leaving form the Golden Horn (a river channel running into the heart of the city from the Bosphorus) takes a route around long sections of the city's walls. Some are in the original condition and other sections like that in the photo above have been rebuilt. Compare the picture above with another shot of the panorama below. The stone colours match!
Compare with the rebuilt section above.

Long sections of the walls remain in the condition they must have been in after the siege was over. I have no idea whether the Ottomans rebuilt what they destroyed in the siege. The shots below are from sections of the walls which seemed to be still damaged. 

The length of the wall sections is impressive and the sections photographed here probably ran for 2-3 miles. These are on the European Shore pointing north and west from the city centre. Istanbul is one of the world's mega cities and the modern metropolis has extended massively beyond the ancient-mediaeval mega city of its day.
Use Google Maps on Earth view/street view to get a sense of the scale of this ancient wonder.

A model which caught my eye in the museum seemed to show Ottoman ships travelling overland around the city! Apparently a huge wooden roadway was built to move the ships and avoid Byzantine attacks from the sea during the blockade. This is military thinking sans frontieres!

This wonderful display above had me both fascinated and confused as there was no English display boards. The wooden 'motorway' curves around the city walls on the European Shore. Notice the huge curtain wall on the Asian Shore facing the Bosphorus itself. The Turks seemed to envelope the city which must have involved hundreds of thousands of troops.
Sultan Mehmed II seen below was the man who took the city for Islam in 1453. The modern name of Istanbul was only officially adopted when the modern republic of Turkiye was created under Ataturk in the 20th century.

Above can be seen one of the massive chains used to block the channel of the Golden Horn in war time. It was dragged across the mouth of the channel to prevent ships sailing in.

I left this section of the museum with an enormous respect for the builders of the city and its conquerors. The museum provides a wonderful window into the past.

Next time in tales from Turkey.... mannequins and weapons of the Ottomans including captured Imperial ordnance.


  1. Excellent and inspirational further update Barry - 'Constantinople - the great siege 1453' by Roger Crowley contains a fascinating account of the siege and description of the building of the wooden roadway to transport ships across the land from sea to river... a great read.
    Holywell Hill

  2. I'm really enjoying this series of articles Barry, I have always fancied a trip to Istanbul and if I eventually get there a visit to this museum will be high on my to do list.

  3. I seem to remember when we discussed your visit a while back that you said there in nothing in the museum relating to the Crimean War which is a real pity considering how well they performed before those pesky foreigners got involved and cocked everything up.

  4. Actually Dave .. not so! I have some Crimean stuff from the museum coming up!

  5. Oh! looking forward to seeing that Barry.


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